Archive for the ‘Local’ Category

A Thanksgiving vision of an eerie Civil War kind

November 26, 2005

My wife and I were driving down Tryon Road in the southern part of Raleigh on the way to catch the early morning Thanksgiving sale at the Super Kmart in Garner (she’s a serious shopper, what can I say) when we crossed the bridge over the railroad tracks just before Tryon deadends into Highway 401 South when I saw them.

My wife being a non-empath and a “severe” Christian really doesn’t believe in psychic phenominae and even though she knows I’m a “for-real” empath and I couldn’t not be this way anymore than I couldn’t be anything else that I am, I was simply born this way, she tolerates my occasional expression of something “interesting” that happens to me despite the multitude of filter-layers constructed over the years by myself to prevent “hard-wall” conscious reckonings but she also poo-poos them about figments of my imagination only, which who knows, while they’re very real to me, shoot, they could be mental constructs of a creative mind and nothing more, I don’t think they are, I think they’re real when they happen but still, one never truly knows.

Still, when I looked up the railroad tracks and saw two forms in full Civil War-Era Union soldier unforms, one of them carrying what looked like an 1863-era-issue .54 caliber musket/rifle and the other lightly burdened only with field pack and a walking stick as they made their respective way heading north into Raleigh on the same railroad track or at least the same railroad track right-of-way which has been unchanged since the 1840’s when it was first laid down and which served as the conduit for virtually every single Union soldier in the various Southeast theatres who eventually made their way home after the war ended, literally tens and hundreds of thousands of Union soldiers being shipped by rail to this area before being mustered out and sent home, still, when I saw these two very detailed spirit forms not a hundred yards from me albeir as we drove 45 miles an hour over the Tryon Road bridge, still, the sight of them definitely caught my attention and I made mention of them to my wife who gave me one of her polite but sincere “ppphhh-shaws”.

I hadn’t seen such a clear vision of a spirit, any spirit let alone a couple of them just sauntering along in weeks if not months. Like I say, normally my mental “filters” keep them out of the forefront of my conscious mind, thankfully.

But hey, it was Thanksgiving Day (which began as a holiday in “the north” way before it was celebrated in “the south”) and they seemed happy enough as they seemed to be making their way further north, further to home, on this the most home-oriented of American holidays, so it seemed fitting that their spirit-bundle would be especially bright and strong on Thanksgiving Day.

Bless my wife, she does so willingly tolerate aspects of me and who I am even though sometimes she thinks I’m so full of “it” that that’s why my eyes are brown she still lets me talk about this or that part of me even though she doesn’t believe a word of it and we go on with our marriage and relationship, one skeptical counselor and one empathetic creativist who still manage to be in-love with each other.

I have to admit, though, I can’t wait until we both enter a “reality distortion zone” which sometimes happens when someone, even a total skeptic like my wife is, is with me when an event or an occurance that’s meant for me happens within a tiny physical-space “zone” and is experienced virtually identically by someone else. When that does happen, I’ll blame it on Steve Jobs, since being around him at times was said to be like “entering a reality distortion zone” too, Grin!


My favorite local burger joint, Christie’s in Cary, is on the way out apparently

November 22, 2005

I honestly never thought I’d have to say these words, but after the worst lunch I’ve had anywhere in the past couple of years and having it foisted upon me at my favorite local cafe’ and burger joint no less, Christies in Cary at the corner of Maynard and E. Chatham across from The Circus Barn ice cream shoppe, I’m afraid the recent change in day-to-day management (I’m not sure of actual ownership, none of my business) has marked the eventual deathknell for a place I’ve been to literally hundreds of times over the past ten going on almost fifteen years and brought at least 100+ eventual “new converts” to over that time as well.

A while back I discovered their incredible “Salisbury steak” which is nothing more than one of their (in the past) incredibly superb hamburgers cooked in a pressure cooker and the resulting brown gravy which was ambrosia to me atop perfect mashed potatoes and upon finding that off-menu item (though it was on their daily menu chalkboard) quit eating what I always told everyone was simply the best hamburger I’ve ever had and ate their Salisbury steak only after that first bite hit my palate, but today, what I had, what was served to me and what I managed somehow to eat was, well, terrible.

Instead of cooking their premium ground beef patty in a pressure cooker (along with lotsa other ground beef patties to be served fresh that day to eager customers) for hours until soft enough to cut with a sharp look, what I was served was an old hamburger at least two maybe three or more days old with some weak store-bought brown gravy from mix just splashed on it, and more than irritated I was just sorely disappointed, because I knew it marked the end of Christie’s era as reigning local burger and cafe champ.

The excuse for what was called a hamburger steak with gravy was so tough I almost sent it back but managed to get it down, it was literally like trying to eat a boilded leather bottom from an old shoe, and when I complained to the manager, not to complain as much as to offer constructive feedback so she/they could go back to the “old ways” of doing it right, she tried to blame the lack of their truck showing up (sorry, but a beef patty is a beef patty and there’s no excuse for serving old hamburger patties 2-3 days old which were NOT cooked in a pressure cooker, the way “The Christies” used to do it) but even she knew that wasn’t even a good attempt at a lie.

I told her I’d come back one more time, Maybe, this has been my lunch refuge forever it seems like after all, and if it was still like today’s Carnivorous Horriblous, then Christie’s will have lost me as a customer, for good, forever. I hope next visit is better, is like Christie’s of old, is all I can say.

Christie’s has undergone major management changes . . .

November 16, 2005

. . . and I mean the beyond-superb breakfast-and-burger cafe’ in Cary that I’ve been eating at – at lease once-twice a week for the past ten plus years, not the major auction house in New Yawk.

The owners, as much as I’ve been a regular I still don’t know their “real” names and have never pried, I go for their perfect Cuisine American’ food, not to socialize with them, I just have always called them “Mr. & Mrs. Christie”, have finally built up enough reputation to where they can semi-“retire” and devote more of their time to their other business interests, specifically the real estate holdings they’ve apparently amased since moving to Cary in the late 80’s/early 90’s and starting the restaurant.

I would geuss I’ve “turned on” at least a hundred, maybe two hundred different friends and business acquentences to Christie’s superb fare over these many years. The simply have THE BEST hamburger I’ve ever eaten, eaten anywhere anytime and it’s always stayed consistently THAT good, you would have to try one to experience it to actually believe, though truth be told I discovered an off-menu item, their version of Salisbury steak and gravy which is served weekdays lunch only after 11AM until they close at 2-ish, discovered it back a few months ago and it’s so beyond childhood-memory-of-my-mother’s-cooking-perfect that’s all I’ve had for lunch there since then, their Salisbury steak and double mashed potatoes and extra gravy on the side. Their breakfast menu is also excellent, and their large sausage patties come from a special wholesale source that Mr. Christie would never tell me where he buys them from but which are also the best sausage patties I’ve ever had.

If you local to the Cary area, you’d be amiss if you didn’t try them at least once. The new managers, “The Christies” still own the place but have turned management over to a new team, assured me that every single item on the menu will stay exactly the same as in years past. For me, it’s real simple: either the food stays consistently world-class as it’s been since way back when, or I find some other place to eat lunch at, there lots more choices in Cary for lunch than there were ten or even just five years ago. But for now, things, memories of some of most sensously-great tasting cafe food I’ve ever had or ever will have, things are the same, so please do check them out.

I don’t know the exact address, but their in the small strip shopping center on East Chathan Street, I want to say 700 block but that’s probably wrong, right across the street from “The Circus Barn” ice cream shop (everyone who’s lived in Cary longer than a week has been to and knows where The Circus Barn is, Circus’ having THE best milkshakes within a hundred miles), between Vanya’s Arts and Accessories and some little tienda-place, it’s actually pretty easy to find.

Well, went to the orthopedic surgeon, and . . .

November 10, 2005

. . . found her, Dr. Sarah DeWitt, to be a consumate professional with an excellent bedside manner and without “the attitude” that many physicians have, in other words – I liked her on all levels.

She must have spent over an hour with me all total, something I found most unusual but most refreshing…did X-rays, talked about the current condition of my heavily-injured ankle from when I was 17 (not good, but could have been a lot worse considering my age), my prognosis (good for the next 10-15 years, at which point I’ll have to have the bones surgically fused togethe or everything below my right ankle amputated), my overall health (incredibly for someone my age, excellent for someone half my age), her suggested course of treatment (cortizone shots directly into the joint, one of which she gave me while I was in the office, and Yes I did feel it but it really didn’t hurt like a needle being jabbed two inches into my ankle joint, just more of a “deep pressure” feeling…since this was my first shot, the effects might last six weeks or might last a year, I’ll/we’ll just have to see) and her suggested course of progressive positive actions (basically, as much water-based i.e. swimming pool exercises that I can reasonably accomodate, that and walking on soft ground in woods or similar as much as I feel I can take).

Anyway, I’d just like to give her a plug here, if you have foot and ankle problems, keeeping in mind she’s an orthopedist/orthopedic surgeon and not a podiatrist, you can call her office directly for an appointment, you don’t need to be referred by another physician, and she takes most kinds of insurance…her very nicely done website where all her info is:

Why I’m not going to vote in today’s local elections

November 8, 2005

Mainly because my new wife Kris (we got married this past May 14th) and I just moved to Apex in June and I would feel really funny about voting in Apex’s municipal elections when – while Yes while we have lived in our local precinct the required 30 days prior to this election, but still – we really don’t as the old Southern saying goes “have a dog in this fight” and also it would be almost, well, presumptuous of us to pretend to have a clue what the local issues in Apex really are.

And the reason I’m not going to vote for the Wake County School Board candidates I could vote for if I wished to is because The School Board has become a pro forma arm for The Wake County Commissioners who actually have to find the money to finance the 100-new-students-enrolled-per-day in Wake County (this area is still a hotbed for job and thusly new emigrees to our area who bring with them their children who need to be taught in public schools) but who can conveniently blame The School Board for the need to raise taxes because of this continuing wave of explosive growth in student population which won’t slow down for many years to come, The School Board’s budget being driven almost totally by this horde of in-migration to the county, by sheer demographics and nothing more or less, and quite frankly I don’t see much point in voting for what amounts to a rubber-stamp-arm of The County Commissioners if said rubber-stamp-board is duly elected by its peerage citizenry.

Belle Acres burned down this morning, and its memories shall not phoenix

November 7, 2005

“Belle Acres”, the old home of (deceased) local multi-millionaire real estate developer and eccentric Kidd Brewer Sr. burned down this morning and with it went an anchor of this area’s past.

Kidd Senior was well-known as the developer of Crabtree Valley Mall just west of what was then back in the early 70’s the city limits of Raleigh on Highway 70/Glenwood Avenue, Crabtree at the time it was built being the largest enclosed mall between Washington DC and Atlanta (Raleigh was also the home the Southeast’s first shopping center, Cameron Village, back in the 40’s) and also at one time owned what was called “the real home of the North Carolina state legislature” the old Sir Walter Hotel in downtown Raleigh and also was a little infamous for publicity stunts such as wearing tights in public in front of his beloved Sir Walter when he lost a bet, a character among characters and with Belle Acres (pronounced “Belly-Achers” by those of us who knew kid and his mild manor estate home) being reduced to ashes this morning a scattering of whisping memories leapt heavenward never to be felt on this earth again.

I knew Kidd’s son, Kidd Brewer Jr., as a friend albeit not a close one, “Kiddo” and I being about the same age and while my dad did was a plumbing contractor and his dad was a real estate developer I don’t think my dad ever did any work for his dad but in any case, in any case when Kidd Junior commited suicide a few years back for reasons know only to his immediate family if them, Kiddo had just finished producing the very successful Hollywood semi-blockbuster “The Deep” and the pressure for success for his sophmore effort after that, well, there’s no point speculating publicly too much, after his death I honestly thought BA’ which by then had been converted into a restaurant was going to commit suicide itself, Belle being the home of so many happy memories and parties and such and then, the life simply left the building, it felt cold and damp even in the heat of the summer when I went back to partake of filet’ mignon fare a couple of times, so it surprised me it lasted as long as it did, until this morning.

Every time “The Deep” comes on cable I think of Kiddo, remember him, remember his dad, remember Belle Acres, but I suspect next time I surf in and out it as I watch 2-3-4 things simultaneously as I am want to do (hey, I am a guy, after all) that I’ll remember a little less and less about the happy times and the sadness of a life of a friend cut short and will let the memories fade into the arc of the timeline of my life, as they should.

Just updated my “Friendly BBQ Letters” page

November 5, 2005

I know, I know, it’s been literally months since I’ve added letters received about North Carolina barbecue to the BBQ Letters Page on my site, but this Saturday morning my tooth where I had the recent root canal was killing me and I didn’t feel like doing my usual Saturday chores (check PO box, grocery shopping, yardwork, etc.) so I sat down and did a ton of cut-and-pastes to my letters page…I know, I know, I should set up a more user-friendly letters section by maybe converting it over to a blog, but we’ll see, we’ll see…in the meantime, if you’d like to read others’ thoughts about NC BBQ, go to:

 My 2004-2005 Friendly BBQ Emails Page and check it out, & Thanks!



30 second review of Patronie’s Pizza in Apex N.C.

November 2, 2005

My wife Kris and her daughter Sekuria and our friend Kathy and I went to

Patronie’s Pizza in Apex NC not a block away from where we live for the first time last night despite having moved to the neighborhood back in June and my dining companions were very impressed by their “regular” pizza and calzones and all and just loved their “white pizza” made special for me with a plain olive oil and just ricotta and provolone cheese but I wasn’t impressed….my white pizza was good, was okay, but not world-class like it is at many other pizza places even local ones…and I was disappointed they used only two, not three or four, white cheeses.

Yes, it is an authentic Brooklyn pizza joint, a fact that means that with my food allergies I can’t physically handle their red sauces and is a nice place in general but is one voice among the choir of similar local competing joints. My first taste of white pizza was many decades ago at a similar pizza joint actually in Brooklyn and unfortunately for all since I have to compare what I eat now with the memory of that first time way back when, which might not be fair but hey, if a wing place like

Buffalo Brothers in Cary
can make a true four cheese white pizza that’s as good as it can get, then why can’t Patronie’s?

On the root canal right of passage

October 29, 2005

Every culture has its rights of passages, rituals which mark the transitions from one stage of life to the next and in our American culture having a root canal is definitely such a transition point, serving both as a marker (usually) from early to middle-aged or older adulthood and as a true pain-based right of survival passage that tells the world you now have the wisdom to understand that you know you’re not immortal and that you have the longer-term vision to want to live as long as you can and are willing to put up with massive amounts (usually) of temporary agonizing pain for the benefit of your (hopefully) longer term lifespan.

Let me say this upfront…when it comes to going to the dentist, I have been a total and complete chickenshit, this time around going to the dentist was only the fourth time in my adult life that I had been to any dentist for any reason, and Yes I was beyond dreading it, what having heard those apocryphal stories all my life as we all have of the root canal right of passage being rough equvialent to a Dr. Mengele At The Spandau Concentration Camp For One Night Only torture just for the sheer hell of it.

Imagine my surprise when Dr. Robert P. Sopko, D.D.S., P.A., a professor of endodontics (in other words all he does is teach dental students how to do root canals for his day job and then sees patients sent to him privately on referals from other “general” dentists as well) at UNC School Of Dentistry not only turned out to be not a sadist but one of the nicest gentlemen and most concerned about not giving me pain medical professionals I have ever met, and I shall sing his praises forever.

The on my first appointment a month or so ago, my two hours+ “in the chair” was completely, and I do mean completely and totally, painless. Because of the nature of my weird body, of course I couldn’t have a normal tooth with only one root or even with the rarest cases for my Number 13 toot – the second bicuspid on the left side), No, of course not, in one of God’s little jokes He likes to play on me of course I couldn’t have been born with just one or even two roots to that tooth, The Big Guy had to give me a grand total of THREE roots on that tooth, yeah, suck it up big boy you know you’re body has always been “special”, which needed to have root canals done on each and every one of them.

Dr. Philip Thomas (who I also like) who is my wife Kris’s dentist and who agreed to see me told me that in his 36 years as a practicing general dentist he had never seen three roots on a Number 13 tooth and just shook his head in amazement when he looked at the X-ray of it, and even Dr. Sopko who has done nothing but teach students how to do root canals and then do them in private practice all day too for over twenty years told me that I was the second or third patient he had ever seen with this condition in all his years as well. Yeah, don’t ever think God doesn’t have a sense of humor, He does, trust me.

So anyway, the procedure for doing the three roots was so involved that it took two seperate appointments a month apart, the first to make an accurate assessment and then have me on antibiotics to cure the incredibly bad infection that had resulted from the tooth basically just rotting away, it coming out one Saturday in early June as Kris and I ate out (which we do almost every day anyway) at a Mexican restaurant (which normally I can’t eat the cuisine of because of all my food allergies but we were with a group of friends breaking bread together that night) when I bit down a very soft bite of plain taco, the tooth being so rotten at that point that if I had bitten down on air it would have probably broken and come out anyway, and the second the finish “going deep” into the actual root canals and finish filling out the old material and packing the holes with a special kind of antibacterial and inert elastomer, gutta percha (sp) which they used to use to stuff the inside of golf balls in the late 1800’s and which is needed to fill the space of the micro-sized holes that the endodontist creates by using these metal files so thin that they’re often no thicker than a few human hairs but which are so strong that as in my treatment by Dr. Sopko he literally had both hand on the tiny end-handles of them and was going as deep as he needed to get all the bad stuff out and we’re talking about files less than 2″ long and just a fraction of a fraction of a millimeter in diameter.

Thank God that Dr. Thomas referred me to Dr. Sopko, as pain-tolerant and resistant as I am I honestly don’t know if I could have stood being “in the chair” for two hours plus for two different times with anyone else, with another endodontist who wasn’t as caring for my well-being as a person as well as a patient and who made damned sure that whatever he did, whatever he had to me wasn’t going to give me pain, yes Thank God indeed.

While he doesn’t accept patients for root canal work directly, if you’re local to Raleigh/Cary/Apex/Wake County/the RTP/Research Triangle Park area and need a root canal, please do consider asking your general dentist to refer you to Dr. Sopko; his contact info is:

Dr. Robert P. Soko, D.D.S., P.A.
4601 Lake Boone Trail, Suite 2A
Raleigh, NC 27607
Phone: 781-2334

On the issue of costs and billing, they do take dental insurance (which my company dental insurance didn’t cover because they’re dicks) but if your dental insurance doesn’t cover the procedure or if you don’t have insurance then Dr. Sopko does require pre-payment in full. In my case, I had to pay $950 upfront and that was totally inclusive, covered both sessions and would have covered even a third or fourth of how many more if more had been needed…your cost and mileage may vary depending on what’s up in your mouth, of course…he does take Visa/MC of course as well as cash/check.

So, I sit here writing this hurting like a motherhummer, while Dr. Sopko was absolutely 100% painless in his application of cure and technique there are after-effect pains and such you need be prepared for. Mine actually aren’t that bad, I haven’t taken anything for pain for them, but hey I am and can be stubborn at times and yesterday, the morning after the second and last procedure, the left side of my face was very swollen and while at breakfast with my wife I did have a pain-wave hit and turn as white as the proverbial sheet and had to go the men’s room to throw up from the tsunami of after-effect pain that unpectedly swept over me, but while feeling like I’ve had a spear shoved up through my jawbone into my left sinus cavity I’m okay, at least now I’ve survived my latest right of middle-aged adult passage and hopefully will never have to have, God Bless Dr. Sopko and his painless technique but still, another one of these ever again, Amen.